Single draw large wooden scope by Berge

There are several telescopes made by Matthew Berge already described on this website, and they give the detail of his background and business. In summary, he was an employee of Jesse Ramsden, one of the major telescope makers around the end of the 1700s, who had married into the Dollond family. Berge took over the business when Ramsden died in 1800, and subsequently labelled his telescopes as “Berge London, late Ramsden”.

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So this telescope dates from 1800, or up to ten years later. Because it is a single draw, wooden barrel, you might tend to think that it is an older design, and was maybe being superseded by the 3 or 4 or 5 draw brass units he produced so effectively. Possibly the all-brass units were popular with the Army, ie the Cavalry officers, when maybe they could

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Wooden barrel, mahogany, 2.25″ OD  

rest them on a tree or rock, to survey the scene: plus they preferred a short unit when it was closed down – easier to pack onto a saddle. But naval officers, and ship’s officers, continued to prefer and use the long single barrelled units for most of the nineteenth Century. Wooden barrel designs also have the advantage that they are light in weight, in the barrel, so a long telescope is easier to hold steady on a distant target, as the weight of the unit is balanced, around the pivot point of the second hand in the middle of the scope.

Dimensions

dscn5208Closed up the telescope is 26.5” long, and extended the length is 38”. The single draw, which is made from 1.75” OD brass tubing, has a joint very close to the mounting flange on the end of the barrel section. Inside this break, the lens cartridge is very long, compared to others, and has a mounting shoulder separated from the mounting thread by over 3” – so is very stably and accurately aligned.

Performance

Brilliant! A really big image, giving a wide angle of view, but still a good magnification. Used at close range in the garden it gives an image with apparent depth, like a binocular would.

Bits missing

dscn5205Trouble is, there are some bits that are missing. Most obvious is the eyepiece cover, probably a bell shaped cover, that screwed onto the outside of the single draw, on the thread there. The function was to position the eye of the user about an inch from the lens at the eyepiece end. The lack of this cover is not a problem if you prefer to wear your spectacles when looking thru the scope, it actually helps a lot. But the eye still needs to be positioned on the centre line of the scope tubes.

dscn5207Second, presumably there was an objective lens cap, used to protect that lens, but that cap is missing. The shoulder where it would have fitted is clearly identifiable.

Background

Bought on Ebay in October 2005. Accession number #112.

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JP Cutts single draw Naval telescope

Another popular telescope maker already featured on this website is JP Cutts, where two models of his have been described: these were a two draw and a three draw, both with wooden barrels. The two draw was interesting, in that it had an oak barrel, and was signed as JP Cutts & Sons, plus the second line of the engraving saying “Opticians to Her Majesty” (Queen Victoria). This one was sold last year on Ebay, fairly quickly. The three draw unit was obviously earlier, as it had no reference to the appointment to “Her Majesty”, and just mentions “JP Cutts” and no ‘Sons’ – but it quotes the JP Cutts being based in London, which Gloria Clifton dates as after 1836.

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This telescope is a single draw with an oak barrel, a design that suggests it is earlier in date maybe, but the format was a popular design for shipboard use. The engraving first line says “JP Cutts & Sons”, which marks it as from a later date, as his sons are quoted to have joined the business in around 1841-45. The second line of the engraving again quotes the “Opticians to Her Majesty” line, so again, it must be dated as after Victoria’s Coronation in June 1838. Possibly only a short time after, as the word ‘Her’ is obviously squeezed into a smaller space than would have been desirable, possibly replacing the word ‘His’. But having seen many other JP Cutts telescopes, I have never seen the engraving using any different (better) spacing.

JP Cutts History

dscn5095I recently found a new account of the JP Cutts history. This advises that John Priston Cutts was born in Leeds in February 1787: one of the reasons JP Cutts interests me is that he was Yorkshire based, a fellow Yorkshireman. He was apprenticed as an optical craftsman with the Sheffield company of Proctor and Beilby: this firm also had factory addresses in Birmingham, and operated in both places around 1804 [Two brothers named Beilby were later reported working in Bristol around 1810-1820]. In his later advertising Cutts suggests that he started his business in 1804 (ie aged 17): this was either the start or end of his apprenticeship.

The earliest known business address for JP Cutts is in an 1822 Sheffield Directory, at 58 Norfolk Street, Sheffield. Around 1828, he moved the business to Division Street, Sheffield, and it remained there until his death. In addition to optical instruments, Cutts manufactured metal implements such as razors, knives, powder flasks, and liquor flasks.

Cutts opened a branch shop / warehouse in London, probably in about 1836. That year he entered a trademark as a spectacle case manufacturer, with an address of 3 Crane Court, Fleet Street. That venture appears to have been very short-lived, as an 1839 advertisement stated “Late warehouse in London, removed to Sheffield”. He was also said to have had a branch office in New York, briefly.

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During the 1830s, Cutts became associated with James Chesterman (1792-1867). Chesterman invented a number of devices, including the spring tape measure and a self-winding window blind. An 1837 directory of Sheffield listed “Cutts John Preston, optical, mathl. and philosl. instrument mfr. and sole mfr. of Chesterman’s patent self-acting window blind and map rollers, tape measures, etc. Division St”, and “Chesterman Jas. patentee and mfr. of the newly invented spring tape measures, spring map and window blind rollers, and spring hinges and door closers; at I.P. Cutts’, Division st.” The formal partnership of Cutts, Chesterman and Co. was in existence by 1855, when they exhibited “measuring tapes”, at that year’s Paris Exposition. Another partner, James Bedington (ca. 1811-1890), later joined to form Cutts, Chesterman, and Bedington. That company dissolved in 1859, after Cutts’ death. Chesterman took over the former business, and remained in Sheffield for many decades: Bedington moved to Birmingham.

This account does not refer to another partnership mentioned in Gloria Clifton’s reference book, that of JP Cutts, Sutton and Son, which was active around 1851, in Sheffield and in Hatton Garden, London: they introduced the Trade Mark ‘TRY MF’. It would be good to know what this meant as at first I thought this read ‘Try me’ – indeed the Royal Museums at Greenwich have a unit showing the Trade Mark anchor and they suggest this reads ‘TRY ME’ underneath, but I’m not convinced, it looks like TRY MF to me: their reference is NAV1486 – any suggestions welcomed! I need to polish up the Cutts & Sutton 4-draw telescope, my Accession number #272, which bears this marking, to see what that says – as soon as I can find it that is!

Later comment (Oct 2017): Inspection of various other Cutts scopes, plus one branded “Newton, Halifax” today, shows the TM distinctly shows “TRY MF” as the wording under the Anchor symbol. So the Royal Museum has got that wrong! But it’s always possible the engraving tool or person had it wrong, and perpetuated the mistake – see the previous comments made below…….

Royal Museums at Greenwich have responded to my query, and they reckon the ‘F’ is a fault in the engraving process on the metalwork. In addition they have found an entry placed by the company in the 1870 publication The Handbook to the Manufacturers and Exporters of Great Britain’ that showed the trade mark printed, where it definitely says “TRY ME”, in between two horizontal lines, under the anchor symbol used as part of the Trademark. This was in an article that provided a comprehensive review of the whole history of this company, including their microscopes.

This telescope

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Closed up the telescope is 20” long: fully extended it is 36”. The OD is 2.5”, the clear visible diameter of the objective is 1.5”. The wooden main barrel appears to be of oak, and is in good condition. The overall condition is excellent: the brass is beautiful, and the eyepiece is complete with a protective slide over the lens, which sticks out of the bell shaped eyepiece housing when the scope is in use. The only potentially missing item would be an objective lens cap/cover, although the (steel) screws at the objective end holding the lens assembly in place have been replaced with brass screws. At the other end of the barrel the brass collar is held on with what look like copper pins.

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The single draw is split in the middle to allow access to the second cartridge containing the two lenses closest to the objective. The end of the single draw is used to create an orifice that is typically used restrict the light passing down the edges of the barrel from the objective lens. The eyepiece cartridge has the other two lenses. All the screw threads unscrew and run easily.

The engraving on the first draw reads:

JP Cutts & Sonsdscn5089

Opticians to Her Majesty

Sheffield

….where the word ‘Her’ is in a slightly smaller font size.

The telescope weight is significant – it probably needs to be supported on the rigging, as it weighs approximately 1.1kg (2.4 lbs or 39 ounces). Presumably on sailing ships the lookouts who climbed the masts did not have to carry telescopes as big as these!

How well does it work?

The telescope focuses easily, and can even be used with spectacles in place! Easily means there is plenty of movement of the draw in and out to move through the point of best focus. The magnification is around 10x, not a high magnification compared to some, but a good wide field of view, for a telescope, makes up for that.

Background data

The scope was bought from A.Miller, a stallholder at the London Scientific Instruments Fair, in October 1999. He seemed to specialise in renovating telescopes that potentially could display beautifully polished wooden barrels, but this one was awaiting treatment, ie not yet renovated. It is Accession number #56.

Another large Berge, from 1800

I seem to have an affinity for Berge and his telescopes, probably because they are ‘almost as good as’ Ramsden scopes, but much cheaper! Nevertheless this one was really really cheap, because it has no objective lens, nor the metalwork that wraps round the objective pair. After cleaning it up, and re-polishing the wood, it makes a good display item, and even has the original brass objective lens cap, to make it look complete!

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Four draws, creating a 35″ long telescope

Engraved as “Berge London”, and “Late Ramsden” on the next line, the initial letters of these two lines are next to the eyepiece, ie on the opposite side to the standard format that was mostly used after about 1790. But Matthew Berge was just a bit of a traditionalist, and stuck to the old format, because he took over from Ramsden in 1800. He worked at 199 Piccadilly, maybe until 1817 – he died in 1819: but we don’t know for how long he leveraged off the Ramsden name and quoted “Late Ramsden” on his scopes. Then the business was taken over by a further two ex-Ramsden employees who had also worked for Berge, called Worthington & Allan: Nathaniel Worthington continued this business until 1851.

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So the scope is around 200 years old at least, is an impressive size, and a modern design for the era in which it was built: leading the field in design, as Ramsden also did!

Construction

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This is a four draw mahogany barrelled brass telescope, measuring 10” when closed up, and 35” when opened out. The outer diameter at the objective, 2.25”, makes it a fairly hefty instrument. The objective lens thread is around 2” OD, and when fitted with the objective lens from telescope #271, a similarly sized unit from Spencer & Co (see the story posted 30 Dec 2016), the combination works and focuses very well. So I just need a 2” OD objective with a focal length of around 27” to bring it back into operation!

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What is the future for this?

Accession number 292: it will probably end up on the wall at the Goonhilly Visitor Centre in Cornwall, where the original trans-Atlantic radio telescopes are being brought back into operation for space research. That is, unless someone wants a lovely 200 year old talking point for about £100, which is what I think it’s worth. Unless I find a good spare lens assembly!

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The barrel has little damage, and polishes well: the brass draws have some stiffness from bangs!

Accession number 292: acquired in October 2016, from an Ebay supplier, based in Ashford, Kent.

A 3-Draw JP Cutts Telescope

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This is a fairly conventional three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, of a good size from a well-known maker. John Preston Cutts was known to have been working between 1822 and 1841, but he claimed that the business had been established in 1804. He received a Royal Appointment to supply to Queen Victoria, so telescopes engraved to that effect (such as #282, described earlier) must have been built after 1837 therefore.

The business started in Sheffield, Near St Paul’s Church at 58 Norfolk Street, and then after 1828 he was at Division Street, Sheffield. In Sheffield he worked alongside James Chesterman, a mathematical instrument maker, who made linear measures (rulers). This telescope is clearly engraved as “JP Cutts, London” in a real Victorian scroll: his premises in London were at 3 Crown Court, Fleet Street, from 1836 onwards.

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Later, the business traded as JP Cutts, Sons & Sutton, from both Sheffield and Hatton Garden in London: trading under this name was recorded in 1851. Not many of the actual dates relating to this business seem to be known exactly!

Description

dscn4911-smThe OD of the main barrel is almost 1.9”, with the visible lens OD of the objective 1.6”. This assembly has been subjected to a ‘major trauma’, ie a big bang on the side, which has distorted the mounting ring and cracked the side of one of the lenses. This crack does not have any visible effect on the view through the scope.

On receipt, the brass fitting on the other end of the mahogany barrel lacked any retaining screws: these have been replaced with small modern brass round-headed screws, which still had to be cut in half to reduce the penetration. The barrel has one longitudinal crack, but is still stable.

The three draws all extend smoothly, and are remarkably clear of dents and dings. Total length extended is 28.5”: closed it is 9.5” long. The eyepiece is a flat ended, square design, typical of the very early and the late C19th: in the middle to early years of the century the bulbous or bell shaped design was fashionable.

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What was it used for?

The telescope is the right size for use from on board ship, or for use by an Army Scout or Officer in the C19th. It is maybe a little too bulky and large for use by a country Gentleman for spotting deer or hare or foxes on the moors, he would probably prefer more of a pocket scope. In fact we have no information about any owners, this is just speculation.

Conclusions

A nice telescope that works well, probably made in the mid 1830s, say 1836 or 37, and sold thru the JP Cutts new offices in London. The telescope was bought on Ebay from a supplier in Littlehampton, in January 2012. It is my Accession Number #158.

Update April 2018: The telescope was sold on Ebay in April 2018, to a young man in SE London.

Spencer & Co Victorian telescope

dscn4875A well-known name in London telescope making at the end of the C18 was the partnership of Spencer, Browning & Rust, based in Wapping, near the Pool of London. They started working together from 1784, but the original founders had all died by 1819, and their respective successors continued in business, effectively separately. Spencer, Browning & Rust operated from 66 High Street, (Hermitage Bridge) in Wapping.

William Spencer, one of these founders, retired in 1815, and died in 1816: his successor, possibly one of his sons, who also may have been called William, continued in the business, and from around 1816 to maybe 1820 operated under the name “Spencer & Co”. There were so many people named ‘William Spencer’ in this time that the relationships are confusing: one of them had been apprenticed to Samuel Browning in 1801, so possibly he took over in 1815 – and was said to have continued working (under his own name) until 1839. Another partnership, Spencer, Browning & Co, was quoted to have started work at #66 in 1840, they are also quoted to have used the alternate name of Spencer & Co: the company was later known as Browning & Co.

The telescope

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This telescope is a single draw, oak-barrelled model, nearly 2.5” diameter at the objective: closed it is 19” long, and open it is 34” long. The large diameter draw tube splits in the middle to give access to the second cartridge of lenses, and at the eyepiece itself there is another cartridge around 2” long.

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The engraving on the drawtube says “Spencer & Co, London, Day or Night”.

This design appearance is more typical of early Victorian fashion, than the 1820 Georgian period. It is therefore considered to date from around 1840, rather than 1820. Another story on this website features a more advanced design of Spencer, Browning & Co telescope, which came from the wreck of the ‘Eagle’.

Restoration history

The telescope was acquired on Ebay, for repair, from a reseller in Bexhill-on-Sea, in March 2016. Only four of the original five lenses were present, and unusually it was the first eyepiece lens, along with the eyepiece itself, that was missing. The eyepiece lens and assembly that screws into and holds the first lens cartridge in place was replaced by a gilded eyepiece that came from an apparently US built telescope acquired in 2001, a four draw unit made by the Criterion Co of Hartford, Connecticut. This latter one was found on a Yahoo auction site, and was shipped from North Carolina.

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The rather ugly steel screws previously used to hold the brass end fittings to the wooden barrel were replaced with more modern brass screws: The diameter of the brass shoulders used suggests that the telescope was designed to have these shoulders fitting over the OD of the barrel – but it was obviously felt to be too tight to fit, and the barrel has been turned down at the ends, making a poor fit on the brass shoulders.

Subsequently the barrel length has been reduced by 0.25″ at each end, allowing both shoulders to extend further onto the barrel, and fit smoothly over the wider OD of the main barrel section. This actually shows the versatility of these wooden barreled designs for naval use, they could be repaired or modified by a ship’s carpenter, repositioning the brass fittings as needed.

Hermitage Bridge

The map of London in 1805, shown at Chawton House in Hampshire, shows Hermitage Bridge crossing Hermitage Dock on the North bank of the Thames, just East of the Tower of London. I have not found High Street as yet.

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Accession Number #271

A Ripley of Wapping 1775 naval telescope

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This telescope continues the pattern of late 1700s mahogany barrel three draw telescopes set by the earlier stories on the Gilbert & Co and the George Willson models. But while Gilbert & Co were operating from Leadenhall Street, and George Willson from Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, which is between St Pauls and the River, these two show the gradual move of the nautical instrument supply business West, into the heart of London, ending up with the Victorian manufacturing and shops in Fleet Street and Piccadilly in the 1800s. Earlier, in the 1700s, ships chandlers, and suppliers to the merchant travellers, were based closer to the Pool of London – which stretched from London Bridge to Rotherhithe. London bridge effectively was the furthest up river that tall-masted ships could reach. Wapping was the prime location for such business, and this telescope was made by Thomas Ripley, who was based in The Hermitage, Wapping, from 1765 to 1790.

Thomas Ripley

Thomas Ripley was an apprentice to John Gilbert, the optical instrument maker, in 1755, alongside Gilbert’s son William. In 1763 he joined the Guild of Grocers, but then branched out into Mathematical and Optical instruments. After 1790 his business became Ripley and Son, with his son James, until 1805. This telescope however is marked clearly, engraved as made by “Thos. Ripley, (of the) Hermitage, London”. He worked from 364 Hermitage throughout his business life, under the sign of the “Globe, Quadrant and Spectacles”. Needless to say, the engraving is on the right side, ie the initial letters start next to the eyepiece.

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The engraving on the first tube: plus this is a Troughton flat faced eyepiece

The telescope

So dating this model is difficult: it was made somewhere between 1765 and 1790. It uses the dual element objective, as per the Dollond patent, in a swaged mount. It uses two separate cartridges, for the eyepiece elements at either end of the first draw. It works beautifully, with a high magnification. There is no objective lens cap now, although once it probably had one.

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The telescope with the eyepiece as supplied!

As supplied to me, via Ebay, the actual eyepiece looks wrong, totally. The end cap is of the wrong style for the 1700s: it has an internal thread, designed presumably to take a lens in its mounting, plus an external thread, which is typically used to screw into a bell type eyepiece lens housing, as fashionable in the Georgian/early Victorian period. So this would appear to be a later addition, where the internal thread just happens to fit the screw thread of the eyepiece, and it has been used to replace a lost original eyepiece cover. But this leaves the ugly external thread exposed, visible, and not used.

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With the Watkins eyepiece

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With the Troughton eyepiece

The extra photos here show the telescope with a flat faced eyepiece, which I consider is the right style for this period: one is taken from a Watkins scope, and one from a later Troughton and Simms scope, both of which fit, but only just well enough to show how it would look (ignoring the different patina of the brass).

Overall dimensions are: closed 9.25”; open 29.5”; OD 1.9”, Objective visible dia 1.5”.

Accession Number is #150, acquired 2011 from an Ebay trader in Dumfries & Galloway.

For this excellent 250 year old telescope, the current resale value in an antique dealer would be in excess of £500.

The Hermitage

DSC06352aThe Hermitage is seen below on an 1805 map of London on show at Chawton House Library in Hampshire. On the North bank of the Thames, Hermitage Dock is shown in the centre, and The Hermitage is on the west side of the dock. The Tower of london is just off this map top left, at the end of St Catherine’s, as can be seen on the smaller picture of the map.

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The Pool of London

Wikipedia explains the significance of the Pool of London, and importation of goods for duty payment via the official “Legal Quays”: the photos below are from Wikipedia.

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Imports from France, 1757, to the “Legal Quays”near the Tower, by Louis Boitard

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Pool of London, 1841, by W Parrott, looking East past Tower Hill – from London Bridge?

Pocket telescope by Bate, circa 1840

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This is a little telescope, but still a very effective one. When new, it had a decent sharkskin covered case, now all that remains is the bottom half: it still has the paper label from the original supply.

The label says:dscn4857

R. B. Bate

Scientific Instrument Maker

Wholesale, Retail & for Exportation

No 21 Poultry, London

The number ‘21’ is on a paper sticker, which covers the previous address, which was 17 Poultry. Internally there is no paper lining: in many other cases this can be made from old documents, which give further dating information.

Construction

Closed up, the telescope is only 5”+, so it might be described as a pocket telescope. It is in fact an effective three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, that extends to 14.75”, and has an OD of 1.3”. It is engraved “Bate, London” on the first draw.

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The wooden barrel is still in beautiful condition, and has not been re-polished by me. All the screws in the end fittings are original, and still function.

The telescope works fine, ie very well, there is still an internal slider in the eyepiece to protect the top lens from dust, when stored.

Sizing: fully open 14.75”, closed size 5.25”: visible objective lens diameter is 1.125”.

Manufacturer

dscn4860Robert Brettell Bate was at 21 Poultry from 1824 to 1847 – he died in 1847. He had associations with WC Cox and Geo Stebbing, both notable marine instrument makers from the provinces (Plymouth and Portsmouth). He also transferred one of his apprentices to William Gilbert (2) (see the previous story. His sons John and Bartholomew Bate were also working in the business.

Accession Number #265

The scope was bought from an Ebay dealer in Lydbury, Gloucester, in 2015.

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A silver plated Gilbert scope, ~1800

Possibly designed to compete for the “Sporting Gentleman” market, like the Berge/Ramsden silver plated scope described earlier (July 30 2016), this is another telescope dating from 1800, but made by ‘Gilbert & Co’. The telescope itself does not give much more useful info, in the engraving, which says

” KINGS PATENT

Gilbert, & Co

LONDON “

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The first thing to notice is that the engraving is on “the right hand side” of the telescope, ie the writing starts with the first letter of each line nearest to the eyepiece. This was the effective standard format from say 1760 to 1790: subsequently it seems this ‘unwritten standard’ gradually changed. From the early 1800s most of the engraving was placed on the opposite side, ie with the last letter of each line ending nearest to the eyepiece. So straight away it can be suggested that this telescope is maybe C18th.

It is likely that ‘Gilbert & Co’ was the name used by William Gilbert (1), at around 1800, when he had four of his sons working in the business with him: these were William (2), from 1795, Henry Robert from 1798, Thomas from 1801, and Charles from 1803. They worked from the Navigation Warehouse, at 148 Leadenhall Street, London, with William and Thomas subsequently setting up their own businesses as instrument makers from around 1809/1813, and later working together as partners.

There were other complex partnerships, where William Gilbert (1) worked with Gabriel Wright from 1792-1794, and again from 1802-1805, and then there were triple partnerships, in Gregory, Gilbert & Wright from 1790-93, and then Gilbert, Wright and Hooke, from 1794-1801 – all of these were in 148 Leadenhall Street. Possibly different names were used on different styles of instrument, which therefore drew on different expertise within the partners – or maybe the group of trades-people working together from this warehouse site. William Gilbert’s father John had also traded as an instrument maker and optician, working from around 1745: William was an apprentice to this John Gilbert (2), alongside Peter Dollond and Thomas Ripley, both to become famous. John himself was the son of a mathematical instrument maker, John Gilbert (1), who had worked from Tower Hill earlier, 1716 to 1749.

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I have not found what the Patent quoted in fact refers to: but the pedigree shows William Gilbert was a major player in optical instruments at the end of the 1700s and early 1800s, and this telescope is arguably better than any similar Dollond.

Construction

dscn4854-smThe whole telescope says “Quality”, starting with the silver plating and decoration around the eyepiece and objective lens. Pick it up and it feels right, but the big surprise is looking through it – the magnification is about twice what you might have been expecting. The lenses in the internal cartridges look good, and must be very carefully sized. One of the draws, the third, obviously what not quite snug enough, so the slider is padded with very thin felt. The sliders themselves have the threads about an inch down in the draw, with a shoulder at the top end, to make a two point mounting for each joint, keeping them tight in line.dscn4847-sm

dscn4853-smSizing is the sort of standard for this style of three draw scope, 29.5” fully open and 9.5” closed, OD is 2”. The mahogany barrel is still polished well, so that has not needed any rework: there is one longitudinal crack. The only quirk in the design would seem to be the extra ring which acts as a 5mm spacer near the objective – this might just be a spacer to enable a focus to be made even on very close objects (20 feet), where the extension required  is close to the fully expanded length of the scope.

Origin

We have no info about any owners. It was bought on Ebay, in September 2006. What surprised me was that it came from a farmhouse in Gulval, just east of Penzance, very close to where my daughter lives! I wonder what stately home it came from!

Accession number is #118. What value would you put on it? The retail value is certainly well over £500.

2018 Comment:

I love this telescope, so it isn’t yet for sale: but there is a similar one for sale on Ebay UK for around £625, by Gilbert & Wright, so maybe even a little earlier. See the dealer “silkandsawdust1” or Ebay item #273599051869…..

Footnote: Navigation Warehouse

The building at 148 Leadenhall Street is now a suite of 92 serviced offices: it is accessed by the left hand door in the picture below.

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A reference to the Navigation Warehouse at 148 records that John William Norie (1772–1843), a writer on navigation, was a Partner with Charles Wilson in publishing naval books and charts and also a dealer in nautical instruments at the “Navigation Warehouse” in Leadenhall Street at the end of the C18.

As the 2016 estate agent blurb says, the offices are “Set in the crossroads of the insurance and financial districts of London, directly opposite Leadenhall Market, and just around the corner from the Lloyd’s building and the Gherkin”.

Next door is a very sumptuous, even exotic bar (the Steam and Rye), with private dining rooms: one of these is the clock room (see below), which maybe harks back to the history of the area.

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George Willson telescope, ~1800

dscn4842-smI left this telescope languishing in a box for ten years (after buying it in 2005 on Ebay), not quite understanding why it would not work. In addition it had a problem with one of the mounting rings, the top “flange” edge had come away from the cylindrical slider. Obviously I had not spent enough time looking at it, as I hadn’t noticed the name stamped on the flat face of the eyepiece, under the grime, which turned out to be “Willson G, London”.

George Willson was apprenticed to James Moulding in 1797, and joined the Guild of Stationers. However by 1798 he was working as an optician, and had several apprentices, one of which was George Dixey. From 1799-1802 they worked in Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, London – and from 1802-1809 they worked as a partnership, as Willson & Dixey, opposite St James’s Church, on Piccadilly, London. Willson & Dixey was a more prolific telescope maker.

This telescope, labelled just as Willson, is likely to date from between 1798 and 1802.

Construction

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The telescope is a fairly standard design, with three draws, a mahogany barrel, two lens cartridges in the first draw, and a flat faced eyepiece. All the screws into the barrel are original, and everything unscrews well. Total length when fully extended is around 29”, and when folded it is just over 9” long, with an OD of 1.9”. It could have been intended for Naval use, or for use by an Army or Cavalry officer.

How to make it work!

The problem was fairly obvious in retrospect! The lens cartridge near the eyepiece did not fit properly, it was too small in diameter to achieve a tight fit inside the draw, but was held in place by the eyepiece cover. The mounting thread on the eyepiece did not attach anywhere. At the other end of the first draw, there was no cartridge, one lens screwed into the thread at the end, and another lens was positioned 2” inside the draw, apparently as a push-fit. Eventually I realised this was in fact at the end of the cartridge which should have been next to the eyepiece, it had just been pushed down along the draw. The eyepiece lens which should have fitted this cartridge was in fact the lens that was screwed into the objective end of the first draw.

So move everything back to where it should be, and of course it all works perfectly!

Slider Repair

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Hopefully the slider on the second draw can be soldered back into place, and still slide along the draw-tube. I later solder tacked it into position, then sanded down the solder inside just enough to get it back fitting the second draw tube, so its in position, at least.

The sliders holding the draws in line have the threads at the outer edge, so this is just an average quality telescope of its day, unlike the next example which is the same date, ie 1800, but super quality, from a maker with a long pedigree……

This Willson is Accession Number 110

A tapered Dollond, from 1770

This is a really beautiful old Dollond, with a long tapered mahogany body. It is estimated to be around 250 years old, i.e dating from maybe 1770, and designed for use on a sailing ship: as you would expect from such an era of Dollond supply, the image is great and the focus is very easy. The single draw tube contains all the four eyepiece lenses, at the ends, and at the two joints in the tube itself. There is no end stop, so this draw pulls straight out, if it were to be pulled too far.

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Unpolished, as received: two joints in the draw, labelled Dollond, with bash marks!

The draw tube does have some signs of previous trauma, having been bashed on something, or someone!

The telescope came from the grandson of a Naval officer who owned and used it in WW1, presumably on a Royal Navy ship, or maybe a merchant ship: we do not know his name to trace where he actually served. Unless he was a high rank naval officer with his own cabin etc, he would not have been allowed to take such a large item on board a WW1 Royal Naval vessel – so it is more likely he was in the merchant navy.

As can be seen from the pictures below, showing before and after photos of the brass cleaning, the leather sleeve on the wooden barrel has done its job, and protected the barrel, but has suffered significantly in doing so.

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Telescope as received

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After polishing the brass end fittings!

The big question to ask, is whether Dollond would have supplied this scope with the leather cover, ie with the mahogany body bare. It looks like Dollond would not have had a leather cover: maybe this was added to protect the barrel, as there do look to be several cracks in the wood, under the leather.

So the decision is whether to cut the leather off and re-polish the wood, after gluing up any/all of the cracks! It would just look so much better.

Dimensions

The scope is exceptional in its unwieldy-ness. Maybe that is why it has been bashed about in its time. But there is a lot of room on the deck of an old fashioned C18 sailing ship! The barrel itself is 36” long, so even closed up tight the overall length is 38”. When opened up to focus the scope, the length is maybe 47”. Maximum OD is around 2.5”.

Inside the barrel there is an orifice, to restrict the outer fringes of light from the objective: the orifice is relatively close to the objective, around 10” inside the taper. It is interesting that the leather cladding has a circumferential crease, or shows up a ridge round the barrel, at this same distance from the objective, almost indicating a joint. The internal bore is evenly tapered, all the way, presumably using a wood boring tool, or chisel.

Accession Number 297, acquired December 2016.

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The different brass discolouration was caused by the close fitting mount slider, while the draw was permanently closed in storage

Removing the leather

Great news: the barrel red mahogany is beautiful: it has some cracks, one of which is open, – it can easily be glued – but other old glue lines that protrude, etc, are coming off with sanding. One area of slight separation between layers can be dealt with…. The leather came off as if it were a loose skin!

Currently (21/12) the barrel is wrapped with rubber bands to hold the cracks in place, while the glue sets, then there will be yet more sanding and eventually French polishing. Suitably sanded, the mahogany now (23/12) has two coats of polish, and is looking good. The old rusty screws (that were too big for the holes, see the top photo) will be replaced with brass ones at least.

Looking good

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This is a couple of coats of French polish into completion, and the telescope is looking good. At least I am of the opinion that this is better than equipped with the battered leather cover.

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The screws will be replaced with small brass ones shortly, when the polishing is completed. The main barrel is shown below!

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Now at last the various coats of French polish have dried and the whole thing is polished and assembled again, with new screws!

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